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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

The Voice of the Good Shepherd as we Shelter in Place

A difficult grace during pandemic is confronting the brokenness in our families as we shelter-in-place. God is hidden in that brokenness looking for His lost sheep: you and me. The Good Shepherd calls to us when our love for one another falls into the thicket to help us find our way out. The One who brings Life to the Full also searches in those painful places where the briars of life cut deep. This Shepherd has even climbed into the broken ravines that are impossible to escape. He has gone there searching for us and it is in that pain that He will find us, if we let Him. He searches there with love and patience, gently calling and listening for our bleats. But to be found by Him takes great courage and faith on our part. Most of all, to bleat out to the Good Shepherd takes a love that is confident in His goodness.

Shelter-in-place can become an opportunity for listening for the voice of the Good Shepherd. Prayer is listening to the call of the Lord in our brokenness. When we are driven by the exigencies of the marketplace and entertainment industry, we often are distracted from the interior pain that members of our own household carry around. Even more, when under the dominance of external circumstances, we can be oblivious to the burdens that we carry or force others to carry for us. Quarantine can provide a moment of relief from driving exigencies and dominating circumstances so that we begin to face the real challenges until now avoided. Un-faced guilt, un-forgiveness, bitter resentment, a burden of shame, in all of this the voice of the Shepherd calls out in search of us. His voice can lead us home if we will listen to it. We do not face any burden or interior pain alone. Shame does not need to drive us further away from life and love. The Lord of Life, Risen from the Dead, has gone before us in power and authority over all that might threaten our dignity and weigh down our hearts, and as Divine Physician, He is already at work with his healing remedy. Of course, shelter-in-place can also be an exercise in self-torment or narcissistic escapism - forms of imprisonment that even a superficial but productive life might avoid. To avoid these dangers and take advantage of the difficult grace shelter-in-place affords, we must not be afraid of the truth. We must not be afraid to do the kind thing a thousand and one times, even if each of the thousand times we have done it is met with indifference. The voice of the Shepherd is a voice that calls for conversion and our humble efforts to smile or say a kind word are a sign that we are listening to Him. Listening to the Good Shepherd is a matter of life and death. We have gone the wrong way and He calls us to turn around. It is a humbling thing to suddenly realize we have been on the wrong path and have followed, not the Shepherd who loves us, but a marauder who wants to steal us away. Yet if we deal with the truth about our own self and the truth about those with whom we live—no matter how painful—we are already on our way to verdant pastures. When we first begin to see the brokenness in which we are lost, our initial reaction is to fix it. And this is not bad... because there is a lot of unnecessary suffering that is easy to fix if we just use a little common sense. In the midst of much of life's disorder, the Shepherd's voice speaks to us through common sense and our own conscience. Living a more orderly and disciplined life, for example, makes it easier to respect the space of those we live with. A harsh word stirs up anger, but a soft answer turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1). It would be a mistake to presume that we could even address these more peripheral forms of disorder without His help —but it pleases the Good Shepherd when He sees us take the initiative and He comes to our aid in a thousand hidden ways without our realizing just how much He has done. There are other perilous situations, however, that go beyond our delusions of self-sufficiency. As we listen to the voice of the Shepherd and try to follow His voice, we also come to realize, very quickly, that there are forms of brokenness that no matter how hard we try, we cannot fix them. Instead, our own efforts can sometimes make a situation even worse. Sometimes, we are so lost that the harder we try to find our way, the greater the danger we face. Common sense and following our conscience will only get us so far... we need a Savior to rescue us and those we love from the thieves and wolves. So our prayer bleats... even as, without our realizing it, we are picked up and carried through the Sheep Gate. Hidden in the brokenness, the Good Shepherd finds us. He is not afraid to go there and we should never fear allowing Him to find us there. He has abandoned everything to bring back one of His own and gladly suffers the misery we have entered to find us. To find Him in the broken wilderness of our hearts is not to have the misery magically go away, but to be carried by Him through it. When our prayer allows Him to pick us up in the midst of what seems unfixable, our bleating has entered into the very Heart of God.

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